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Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching children a process for solving math problems

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From: abfk

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003031621:25:06
Subject: My steps for solving word problems

I developed five steps which I made the students memorize and use. Sometimes I would take points off on tests if they did not show that they were using the method. When we would go over work on the board or when they would ask for help, my first question would always be, "What's the first thing we do, what's Step One? What do we do next?" Whenever I got soft and did not require the steps, they did not use them! I tried to reduce the steps down to a mneumonic acronym, anything to give them easy access to the method. I had to keep finding ways to make them turn to the method because as you have noted, there is a terrible disdain for system. Anyway, here are the steps with the sense of their contents: Step One -- Assign algebraic notation; give letter nsmes to the unknowns; Let x = Step Two -- Set up an equation using the information given in the question and/or common mathematical knowledge such as, "The sum of the measures of the angles of a triangle equals 180 degrees." Step Three -- Solve the equation; discover the value of the single letter Step Four -- Verify; go back to the word problem and see what it wanted you to find, it may not be simply the value of x Step Five -- Check; plug the numerical values into the original equation for arithmetic confirmation; the error might be in computation in the checking process, too; if it does not check, start all over on a fresh piece of paper

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